Building I.V. Inferno - Dual Loop Watercooled Computer

First a shameless plug: Over the years building my computer has been a passion and one that I take much pride in. My first custom built computer was on Intel 775 architecture and cost me a years salary working part time at a gas station. Since then I have dropped the money to build a water cooled computer, which opened many doors of exploration: mainly overclocking and stress testing.

Most of the hardware in this computer is two years old as of the writing of this article, but many of the aesthetics of this computer are less then a year old. The latest refresh of the computer concentrated on the adding of a second loop for the GPU, increasing wattage to support the components, fan management and aesthetics.

Single Loop Watercooled Computer                    Single Loop Watercooled Computer

The last build (called project Sabertooth v2) consisted of a ATI 4870X2 and a single loop for the Intel i7 860 processor all powered by a Corsair 620 watt power supply.

Parts List

-Corsair HX1000w Modular Power Supply
-ROG Maximus III Gene Motherboard
-Intel Core i7 860
-2x ATI/AMD 6970 in Crossfire
-8GB Corsair Dominator DDR3 1600
-Black Ice GTX Xtreme 360 Radiator
-Black Ice GTX Xtreme 240 Radiator
-2x Swiftech MCP350 Water Pumps
-EK Supreme HF Universal CPU Cooling Block
-EK Radeon HD 6970 GPU Cooling Block
-2x XSPC Bay Reservoirs
-Corsair Obsidian 800D Full Tower Case
-Lamptron Touch 6 Channel Fan Controller
-BitFenix Alchemy Orange and Red 300mm LED
-BitFenix Alchemy Orange and 2x Red 120mm LED

Radeon HD6970 Graphics Cards 1000 Watt Power Supply and Fan Controller Watercooling Dyes
Lamptron Touchscreen Fan Controller   Six Channel Fan Controller

The Build

Since this was my second round of building a water cooled computer, I had a better idea of what to expect. Things went smoother this time round but there was also some missteps in the process. The first step to building the computer was to put the radiators into the case. The Black Ice 360 radiator was the easiest to install. I started out by putting the fans on the radiator. I wanted the fans to blow out the top of the case. There are a few reasons for this, first heat rises so it made sense that the large radiator at the top of the case would act as an exhaust for the heat built up in the main area of the case; the second reason is that you want to develop an appropriate airflow for the case. With cold air coming in from the bottom and rising to the top, this will prove to be the most efficient way of cooling the case. I choose to use a push method for the fans, meaning that they are on the bottom of the radiator, they suck in the air and push it past the radiator and outside the case. I have found that a pull method is not as efficient as a push method. I have seen other projects using a push and a pull, but I decided that there was not enough room in the case to do this, and still have it aesthetically pleasing. The second radiator was more of a challenge to get installed. The 800D comes default with a hard drive bay at the bottom of the case. This was where I wanted to put the 240 radiator. Inspired by a similar project on [H]ard Forums I decided to take this out of the case. I bought myself a $60 Dremel tool and a package of cutting disks. Within 20 minutes I had taken out the hard drive cage as well as cut out a hole in the bottom of the case for the radiator to breath from. By standard the Corsair 800D case can fit a single section radiator, with these modifications to the case the 240 fits well. The next step was to add the tubing to the setup. Since I decided to have dual loops on this computer, I was going to need a lot of tubing. 16 feet in fact. Because I was using two bay style reservoirs in this computer it was going to be difficult when filling the loops to maneuver the bays when filling the loops. The only way get around this was to add extra tubing to the bays so that the could be pulled out the front of the case and be moved around. Needless to say there is a lot of tubing in the case. Kind of like IV's. Guess where I got the first part of the name from! The ideal setup would be to have the two 6970's on one loop which connected to the 360 radiator and have the CPU loop setup on the 240 radiator. This is where I ran into the first issue. Originally I had bought a single 6970, a few days after it's release. In preparation for the build I bought a second one a few months later. Turns out that there are two designs for the card. The reference and the revised design. Not knowing that this was the case I had ordered two water blocks for the reference design of the card. Turns out that the water blocks only fit the reference design of the card. Unfortunately I was only able to have one of the cards water cooled. The other would have to be done by air.

Getting the loops filled with the liquid of your choice can be an interesting and time consuming task. To get the loops filled correctly you need to get all the air out of the loop and the water needs to be pushed to all the components... not an easy task. When designing the loops I decided that having the reservoirs connected by a short amount of tubing to the pump would be the best solution. This would allow me to fill the reservoir and then the water would then trickle down to the pump, where the pump would do the challenging task of filling up the rest of the loop. Had the reservoirs not been connected right next to the pump, I could have spent several hours just trying to get one loop full – which was a problem on the last build I did. When filling the loops you don't want any of your electronics connected to power in case there is any leaks in the system. Should there be a leak, and you are not using a non conductive coolant then your computer will be a brick and you'd have lost thousands of dollars of equipment. But this brings up the interesting issue of how to turn on the pumps as your filling the loops. The trick is to hook the power supply up to the pumps and and power on the power supply. You will need to “jump” the power supply to get it to power on. To do this I used a paper clip. I took the paper clip straightened it out and then bent it into a “C”. On the P1 connector (the big one coming from the power supply) I simply inserted one end of the paper clip into the the socket for the green wire and the other end into any one of the sockets for a black connector (ground). With this done you can now turn on the power supply and the pumps will start running. Lastly I poured the water into the reservoirs and magically the loops filled up.

The last two steps was the 24 hour leak test in which you run the pumps on the loops and wait to see if there are any leaks in the connections on the loops. At this part I lucked out, after 24 hours there was not a single leak to be had. The last task was to get any and all the air out of the tubes. This is easily accomplished by opening up the fill port on the reservoirs and letting the air escape into the atmosphere while running the pump. Ideally you should have no sounds of water splashing around when the computer is turned on. It should be quite.

Watercooled Workstation LED Watercooled Workstation LED Watercooled Computer

Building the water cooled computer was expensive, a little stressful and time consuming. If you were thinking of doing a water cooled build be aware that the process is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards in overclocking are great when using water cooling over air. If you take your time and think things through before building the different parts of the computer you will have an excellent machine capable of serious overclocking potential. If overclocking is not something you want to try out then you can rest assured that the components of your computer will be cool and you will get the maximum life out of them.


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